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How to get rid of hesitation? How to improve communication skills?

Posted on 2013-01-24
Last Modified: 2013-01-28
I'm working as a lead in a leading software company. I've hesitation to talk to other people. How to get rid of hesitation? How to improve my communication skills? I look for excellent books, articles, tips and ideas/ways to improve my communication skills effectively. Please do provide your thoughts.
Question by:Easwaran Paramasivam
LVL 52

Expert Comment

by:Scott Fell, EE MVE
ID: 38817554
Gitemer has a good line of very short books  http://www.abebooks.com/9781885167668/Little-Black-Book-Connections-Format-1885167660/plp

You got hired...as a lead....for a leading company....have confidence in yourself.
LVL 83

Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 38817644
Books will only help a little.  Practice speaking in public and in front of people is necessary to improve your abilities.  In the US there is an organization called Toastmasters that exists expressly for that purpose.  Apparently it is International now.  http://www.toastmasters.org/
LVL 32

Expert Comment

by:Paul Sauvé
ID: 38820905
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LVL 38

Assisted Solution

BillDL earned 200 total points
ID: 38821803
In my opinion you cannot really learn such skills from books.  Fluency only comes from practice and also a bit of self-analysis.  I am not referring here to speech impediments such as stammering, Taurette's Syndrome, or attention deficiency disorders.  I am only referring to lack of fluency when speaking to others and attempting to retain their attention.

You can learn how to structure a presentation from books in the same way as you can learn good ways to structure an essay, but there are a lot of different presentation scenarios that require slightly different approaches and structures.

Trying to conduct a meeting where you are likely to be interrupted frequently, or are likely to hear and see a lot of body language like shrugging, head-shaking, hand waving, writing of notes, and muttering noises of approval or disapproval, requires the ability to pause when needed, raise the voice when needed, and generally improvise when needed while steering your content back onto track.  Although some people are natural leaders to whom this type of thing comes naturally, these skills are generally learned through experience.  For example, a child from a large family that is accustomed to sitting around a dinner table and television, all chattering at once, is likely to either be one who grows up being able to hold his own corner and say what he wants to say in a noisy and interrupted environment, or may grow up to be reticent and find it hard to participate in or chair a noisy meeting.

Delivering a presentation to a room of scientists who are so silent that you could hear a pin drop is yet another skill.  You have to be comfortable with the sound of your own voice more than anything, because that is all you will be hearing, and you must be comfortable looking around a room and maintaining eye contact with and focus from the audience as you speak with them.  Those who are less comfortable with this will usually freeze slightly as they look around the room for the first time and capture eye contact with the first few audience members, and will usually resort to a greater use of props and diversions to avoid eye contact.  In this type of scenario you really need to be aware of the audience's body language and be able to adapt when you start seeing or hearing shuffling feet, muffled coughing, or dazed expressions.

Any type of presentation or speech must be researched and rehearsed, but dependent on the anticipated audience it is usually wise to try and anticipate how you will cope with interruptions or negative body language and have a contingency plan that you can divert to and then return to your flow again.  Some presentations require that you fully memorise large amounts of figures, phrases, sentences, and so on, and deliver them exactly as written, whereas for others you can have cue cards (mental or written) and just have a loose idea of how you are going to deliver the information for each of those key areas.

The more you rehearse exact sentences and timings, the more likely you are to become muddled up if you forget something or are interrupted.  In the same way as you might mentally rehearse answers to possible questions while driving to a job interview you can also rehearse various different ways to deliver the information in a meeting or presentation.  Usually you will go through many different ways to start off your answer, and then will go through a number of different ways to follow on that introductory statement and embellish it, but often the follow-on content is not rehearsed word for word and (with practice) you are able to adapt and modify the content in a way that sounds less rehearsed and more natural.

Although you might feel stupid walking around a park with your dog, or lying in the bath talking to yourself, that is the best way to get used to hearing your own voice and discovering how you can make your speech more interesting by accentuating certain words, changing tempo or pitch, and pausing for effect.  Sometimes gestures and body movements can help to get an important point across, but you don't want to look like an excited Mediterranean inhabitant at a road traffic accident.  One simple hand movement to demonstrate expansion, contraction, rising, or falling, can bring focus to the point you are making verbally.   You would obviously attract attention to yourself in a park rehearsing body movements, so that type of thing would be best practiced in your own home ;-)

Record your own voice and play it back.  When it gets to the stage where you don't cringe too much and say "that's awful", then you are fine and it will sound 100 times better to others because we are probably the most critical of our own voices.

Try out your presentation on family members and guage their reactions.  You can't expect them to understand some technical content like software development, but you want their feedback on how it sounded in general rather than the content.

So, my advice would be to know what you are going to say in a meeting and then (no matter how stupid you feel doing it) talk through it out loud by yourself as much as you possibly can.  Even make up some interruptions as though somebody had butted in, and practice how you would address the interruption.

If you have kids, try to say something to them that involves more than 3 sentences and try to keep their attention after they look disinterested after the first sentence.

Whenever you see or hear something interesting or controversial, immediately pretend that you are delivering a presentation on that subject to others, but do it on your own.  For example, you have just watched a nature documentary on TV about how penguins cope during the hard Antarctic winters.  Try to verbally condense the entire program into a 3 minute summary with sufficient detail and fluency as to make it a useful piece of conversation - to yourself, not with guys talking about football in the bar.

You might be surprised how your fluency improves.

LVL 70

Accepted Solution

Merete earned 200 total points
ID: 38821889
I learnt a valuable lesson when I was a younger,
to thine own self be true and then it follows you cannot be false to another.
My favourite moral booster was Desiderata
Here it is again and I still love it.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

When you speak from your own center and know what you speak of
it doesn't have to be sold your simply sharing from within that experience.
Don't think about them and what they are thinking of you,
that takes the focus away from your own center.
Speak slowly  and keep to your subject.
Especially make your own notes.
LVL 16

Author Closing Comment

by:Easwaran Paramasivam
ID: 38826069
LVL 38

Expert Comment

ID: 38826666
Thank you EaswaranP
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 38829452
Thank you EaswaranP  and best wishes to you,
if it helps you more as I was growing up the book I kept in my pocket so to speak , there is pocket size and larger size, it was Kahlil Gibran The Prophet
I still have it today.
 The prophet, Almustafa, has lived in the foreign city of Orphalese for 12 years and is about to board a ship which will carry him home.
He is stopped by a group of people, with whom he discusses topics such as life and the human condition.
The book is divided into chapters dealing with love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.

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